Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

My current research is in the Global Cultures under the mentorship of Dr. Dragan Kujundzic and I’m in charge of organizing the Exhibit in Celebration of 300th Anniversary of the Founding of Saint Petersburg, the capital of Russia from 1712-1918, which will take place in the beginning of May. Taking into consideration the special role of Saint Petersburg in the history of Russia - in all stages of its development as an international cultural, political, and research center, I’m exploring, learning and analyzing the history of people, who lived and worked there, and who have contributed to the spirit of Saint Petersburg. Prior to the Humanities Research I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to be engaged in research under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Murray Korc’s laboratory investigating Approaches to Inhibit and Neutralize Tumor Growth due to TGF- 1 Produced by Pancreatic Cancer Cells.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

When I was looking at universities and choosing a university to attend, one of the main considerations for me assessing the way undergraduates get involved in faculty-mentored research projects. Therefore upon entering UCI, I knew I wanted to do cancer research but I didn't know where and how to start. One of the courses that I took upon recommendation of my bio counselor was a Bio 2A Seminar Class, and this is how I met Said Shokair, who was one of the lecture speakers for the course. Having got the information from him, it took me another two quarters to digest it, and process it, since at that time the possibility to even attempt to do research was beyond my imagination, and everyone around me kept on repeating that students should start research in their third/fourth year after they have completed certain amount of course work. Luckily my strong passion for cancer research and stubbornness disallowed me to listen to anyone, and after lots of preparation and “homework” starting from summer of my freshman year I was on my way to learning and gaining an experience of my life time in Dr. Murray Korc’s laboratory.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

The opportunity to do research has been one of the most significant educational experiences for me at UCI. It has also been challenging, and demanding of my time and energy, but I was determined to succeed. However, the opportunity to take part in something important as investigating pancreatic cancer and attempting to find cure for the patients was the noble purpose that kept me working late hours in the lab. In addition, the interaction that I got from working with Doctors and Graduate students in the laboratory is incredible. The knowledge they teach you is essential and can not be found in the textbooks or learned in the classroom. It's one thing to know the theory of how something works, and it's completely different, when you get a chance to understand by doing it yourself, and that is something that can only be gained by doing research!

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

I always couldn't wait until I get my cell data (in vitro) to work, so I could start with testing my experiments in vivo. I remember coming to the lab at 10 p.m. after everyone has left and continue working on projects that I started in the morning of the same day, and stay in the lab until 2 a.m., just so I am able reach come results and be able to transition my project to apply on animal subjects with the greatest sensitivities to their welfare. It is exciting to see whether tumors are being inhibited or not and what rate. You learn a great deal from watching the surgeries.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I'm planning on attending Medical School to become oncologist and establish my own oncology free-clinic in the future. Doing research on cancer in addition to my Biological Sciences background gave me a solid foundation of knowledge on various aspects of cancer. This knowledge would significantly help me to be more understanding of my patients’ conditions and apply my knowledge from research by recommending more applicable treatments. Working closely with doctors and graduate students has greatly expanded my knowledge base that will allow me to be a better oncologist.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

One thing that comes to mind when someone talks or asks me about research, I always tell him/her, "Just Do it." If you have been passionate to learn something new, UCI is the place for you. There are many students, counselors and advisors at UROP who are happy and eager to get you started. Secondly, I believe that there is no boundaries and limits to your imagination/passion and goals (even thought it may seem so at the beginning), and I strongly believe in such things as exceptions! Sometimes all it takes for one to pursue their passion and get into research is taking initiative and going forward no matter what. Look at me, I started my research in the summer of my freshman year without having taken any biological sciences courses that were required for the project and have not had any experience or knowledge of any type of cancer, especially the not so common one as pancreatic cancer. I simply went to the interview, very motivated and energetic and said I wanted to do it! And after years of hard work, it happened.... Finally, research is not about what you are good in, and what is required (by graduate schools), it is about your interests, your desires, and your passion and a lot of hard work. Therefore, no matter what your field is, no matter what your plans for future are, start researching today and pursue your dreams like I pursued mine.

Past Researchers of the Month
Dec. '04 Martin Vega
Nov. '04 Peter Kuo
Oct. '04 Michelle Plyer
Sep. '04 Camille Campion
Aug. '04 Ahmed Ibrahim
Jul. '04 Gregoria Barazandeh
Jun. '04 Matthew Korn
May '04 Jolene Minakary
Apr. '04 Zhanna Kovaleva
Mar. '04 Dorothy Chang
Feb. '04 Elizabeth Yanni
Jan. '04 Brad Cohn
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